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Three Keys Unlocked: Broncos vs. Eagles

Posted Sep 29, 2013

Read how Andrew Mason's three keys unfolded against the Eagles.

DENVER -- When your biggest worry in a game is scoring too fast, then you've got the NFL's answer to "#firstworldproblems."

In looking back at the Broncos' 52-20 destruction of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, the Broncos fell into trouble just twice -- and both instances were self-inflicted. One was when Knowshon Moreno was flagged for a 15-yard late-hit penalty, knocking the Broncos out of field-goal range. The other was when Trindon Holliday's 105-yard first-quarter kickoff return for a touchdown forced the defense back onto the field -- just moments after the offense had sprinted to its first score in three minutes, 52 seconds.

"It's kind of a love-hate thing. You love that (the offense) is putting points on the board, but as a defense, they score so fast, you're like, 'Take some of that time off the clock,'" said cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. "But it's fun to watch."

And eventually. At one point, the offense didn't run a play for 10 minutes, one second of game time. Meanwhile, the defense was on the field for 26 plays, and after bending to hold the Eagles to a pair of field goals, it finally broke to allow a touchdown after the rusty offense went three-and-out following its extended sabbatical.

But eventually, the game normalized. The offense followed Philadelphia's touchdown drive with one of its own, chewing up 6:01 of the second quarter. The defense got its strength back and didn't allow the Eagles another point until the fourth quarter, by which point the outcome was assured.

Nothing is guaranteed beyond 4-0, but for this moment, the Broncos' problems are few -- and they're the sort of issues that would make teams like the Giants, Jaguars, Buccaneers and Steelers flush with envy.

"We couldn't do too much celebrating with them because we knew we had to get right back on the field."

1. SAME AS ALWAYS: TAKE WHAT'S THERE.

The Broncos racked up 472 yards on offense, and no receiver or runner accounted for more than the 91 yards from scrimmage compiled by Knowshon Moreno on 12 rushes and a single reception. Just one completion covered more than 20 yards in the air from the line of scrimmage, and that came when Peyton Manning saw the coverage he wanted and hit Eric Decker on a post route late in the second quarter.

For the most part, the Broncos offense gratefully took what was available, dicing up the Eagles as they did the Ravens, Giants and Raiders -- by spreading the football around so much that it was impossible to know where Manning would turn next.

"If you can have more skilled players, have more guys that are a threat, it’s harder to play defense against them," Decker said. "Our mentality offensively is to make sure that they don’t know where the ball is going. Every guy gets open; every guy gets opportunities. 

2. KEEP SMALL PLAYS FROM BECOMING SOLID GAINS, AND KEEP SOLID GAINS FROM BECOMING BIG ONES.

The only time the Broncos failed at this was in the second quarter, when the defense became fatigued after being on the field for all but 62 seconds of a 14-minute, three-second span. The fatigued defense was caught out of position on a screen pass to Bryce Brown, allowing him to dash 35 yards through the defense to set up a touchdown.

Other than that, the Broncos limited yardage after the catch and after contact better than anyone has done against the Eagles -- until the fourth quarter. By then, the game was out of reach; when it was competitive, the Eagles had just one play of 25 yards or more. The Eagles' offense still lacks the timing and accuracy necessary to dice a foe up with short to intermediate routes, so without the big play, it was neutralized.

3. CREATE MISMATCHES.

This was apparent from the first play of the game, when the Broncos opened in a three-wide receiver set and was covered by Trent Cole, an outside linebacker who was recently converted from his previous role as a 4-3 defensive end. Cole is 270 pounds; he's athletic for his size, but that's not going to help him keep pace with Welker, and a 33-yard pickup resulted.

Whether it was a linebacker on Welker or left tackle Chris Clark blocking safety Earl Wolff to spring Demaryius Thomas for a touchdown, the Broncos created numerous mismatches and left the Philadelphia defense lost.

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